Friday, October 29, 2010

On Happiness and Other Fleeting Feelings

My sister posted a moving blog post today, Being Good Enough: How to Separate Who You Are From What You Do, and it's similar to what I've been thinking lately so I wanted to link to her. It gave me courage to post what I've been thinking lately.

Hey Char, "I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours first/ Let's compare scars, I'll tell you whose is worse/Let's unwrite these pages and replace them with our own words." (source)LOVE you!!

The last five months, since my baby was born, have been months of unparalleled happiness, peace, contentment, and even joy. It's like my life of drab neutrals and spotty dark canvases had turned into Technicolor crosses between Vincent Van Gogh and Mary Cassatt. Being a mom to my four kids was like being Dorothy walking out of that trashed Kansas farmhouse and into Munchkinlad. I didn't know things could be so bright and bouncy and full of life. Sure, the squeaky little voices might get annoying and it's hard not tripping over so many people who are only as tall as your knees, but their vibrancy is astounding.

It took four kids to teach me, but I have finally embraced motherhood. As I hold it close I've discovered how glorious it is. I get what the apostles and prophets talk about it in seeming hyperbolic terms. I get how and why this is God's work and I am crazy-grateful for the opportunity to be part of it. I love it in a fierce and primal way. These children are such gifts and sometimes it almost hurts to be able to bask in their glory. Being a mother is awesome.

As I've come to know these new feelings the closeness I have felt with the Lord has been astonishing. His love for me, His Spirit, has been a bubble around me. It's protected me from sadness and hurt and anger. It's buoyed me up during tempestuous mothering moments that usually sink me. It felt like the Lord was working miracles in my life like He never has before and it made it so I could finally feel comfortable and loved.

And now I feel like that bubble is popping. In small ways (long nights and lack of sleep, forgetting to refill my antidepressant) and in a few spectacular ways (one of my children getting suddenly ill and being hospitalized for two weeks and drama in my extended family) has prodded my happy bubble and it's swelling and turning and I know it's gonna burst.

I'm trying to hold it together but, really, what makes a bubble beautiful is its fragility and fleeting nature. Holding a bubble too tightly, squeezing it, is the thing that is most likely to pop it.

Back when I was in therapy my therapist, Ann, would encourage me to stay in the moment,let the past rest, avoid projecting into the future. I've tried to do that with my happiness--savor it, roll around in it, enjoy it. And I'm trying to be open to what ever is coming next because whatever it is will come and will go and I can't control it. All I can do is experience it. But anything other than the joy I've had feels like failure. Depression feels like failure. I find myself wondering what I've done wrong. Is there some sin that's popping my bubble? Is it my inherently weak and fallen nature that so offends God He can't be with me anymore? Or is it just that cursed opposition in all things coming back to roost? Likely it's some swirling, inconstant, even fleeting, combination of all those things.

But we know that God's love is constant. His desire to bless us is constant. His position as our parent is constant. So maybe even when I am less aware of Him, when my ability to feel Him is diminished, I can remember what His love felt like and it will be okay. I don't have to be anything other than I am for Him to love me.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ammonihah Revisited--the reader's theater!

Hi folks. A while ago our ward seminary teacher asked me to write a reader's theater about Ammonihah for one of her lessons. I was honored that she asked me and delighted with the opportunity. There wasn't a lot online when I researched and wrote this so I decided to post mine here. I've been meaning to go back and cite all the scriptures that I used, but I haven't had the time. Look around in Alma; you'll find 'em. It's a little serious and a little campy, and our seminary students really enjoyed it. If you'd like to use it for Church or seminary feel free, just email me at lolapalooza AT hotmail DOT com with Ammonihah in the subject line so I know (I'd love to see if/where this things travels) and be sure to run it past your bishop. I mean, I don't think it's controversial but you never know how people will take these things! Enjoy!

Also, check out my post at A Motley Vision about writing for Church assignments. And please leave a comment if you feel inspired--I promise the AMVers won't be mean!

ANCHOR (in best, most serious, news broadcaster voice): Good Evening and welcome to a special broadcast, Ammonihah Revisited: Destruction from God or Impending Lamanite Scourge? Tonight we will be exploring the history of that great city Ammonihah—examining its culture, its peoples, and its torrid religious history—all in the effort to answer the question on everyone’s minds. Was it, as the so-called prophet Alma declared, “the anger of God”? Or was it simply an ironically timed attack by vicious Lamanite war mongrels? However, before we get into our story this evening we here at the Nephite News Network wish to offer our condolences to those whose lives have been scarred by this horrible tragedy. Now, we turn to our first correspondent, Sariah, to take us into the lives of the Ammonihah-ites. Who were they? What did they do? And could it be possible that its destruction was an act of God? Sariah, we turn to you for answers.

SARIAH: Ammonihah was like most other Nephite cities: lively and bustling with commerce and culture. People here enjoyed prosperity, ruled by judges and receiving the fair sum of a senine of gold or silver for a day’s work. However, the lives of the people of Ammonihah were shaped most recently by the debate between three men: the Nephite “prophet” Alma and his partner-in-proselyting Amulek and, on the other side, Zeezrom a skilled and high-profile lawyer who was known for his ability to make people eat their words. Most of our viewers probably remember these debates well and remember the main points they were centered on: the existence of God and His intentions for the Nephite people--especially the Ammonihah-ites, a majority of whom did not believe in God at all. Zeezrom even went so far as to offer Amulek money to consider his way of thinking, but Amulek was firm and repeatedly stated his beliefs regarding the existence of a supreme being and the importance of keeping that Being’s commandments, saying, “An angel hath made [these things] known unto me.” Alma probably did more to incite the people and Zeezrom than Amulek, contending that the people of Ammonihah were wicked and making, what seemed at the time, ridiculous threats of destruction. Alma claimed, “O ye wicked and perverse generation . . . repent, or [God] will utterly destroy you from off the face of the earth; yea, he will visit you in his anger, and in his fierce anger he will not turn away.” Their teaching turned especially powerful as they spoke of a Christ, an atonement, and a resurrection. Zeezrom claimed that both were liars but as Alma continued to preach Zeezrom’s resolve faltered and he threw himself in front of the judges of the land, begging for Alma and Amulek’s release. We turn now to file footage of an eye witness to Zeezrom’s retraction.

EYEWITNESS: I was there when Alma and Amulek were speaking and even I was a little convinced. Well, not convinced so much as swayed. But as soon as they stopped speaking I came back to my senses. Zeezrom wasn’t so lucky, just like a bunch of my neighbors. They seemed to actually believe what Alma had said about repentance and God and eternal life. I saw Zeezrom just a while after his confrontation with Alma and Amulek and the guy was still shaking. It was crazy! I mean, he ran right in to the judges and said, “Behold, I am guilty, and these men are spotless before God.” He looked all of us in the eyes as he said it and, I have to admit, he was convincing, but then I remembered that Zeezrom was a lawyer and couldn’t be trusted. I spit on him and told him to get out. We all did. That’s when everyone started throwing rocks and all the believers took off.

SARIAH: Zeezrom recuperated with Alma and Amulek’s other escapsed followers in Sidom. People were slow to believe that claims that Zeezrom was baptized by Alma, but we have confirmation of that fact tonight. Zeezrom himself said, “Yea, I believe according to [their] words.”

ANCHOR: Thank you Sariah. Even after Zeezrom left Ammonihah continued to make headlines when the judges imprisoned—some would say unlawfully—Alma and Amulek. Then in a savage and ill-advised stroke the Ammonihah-ites proved their reputation as especially hard and wicked people to be true. They gathered together the remaining believers and burned their women and children, along with their scriptures. As Alma and Amulek were forced to look on Alma reportedly told Amulek, “The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just.” It was then that people remembered what Alma had said about God destroying Ammonihah. We turn now to another correspondent, Jerusha, to fill us in on the beginning of that destruction.

JERUSHA: With the smoke still rising from the burned scrolls and bodies, Alma and Amulek were again imprisoned—but this time they were mocked and abused. In the face of so many gruesome deaths other people might have backed away from more violence. But not those in Ammonihah. According to sources, they were just getting started. I have with me one guard who was willing to tell what he observed. Although we are keeping his face shadowed to protect his identity, this man did work for the judges in the now obliterated Ammonihah prison.

GUARD: Well, um, it was hard, you know. I think it would take a real mean person to not feel bad after what happened to all those women and children.

JERUSHA: Wait one moment. Are you saying you are a follower of Alma and Amulek?

GUARD: I wasn’t then. But I am now. And, you know, even if you don’t believe the same as someone, well, there are still laws and morals. The people who threw others into the fire were evil and they kept being evil once they got their hands on Alma and Amulek. They starved them and beat them and kept making fun of them. Shouting things like, “If you’re so powerful then free yourselves.” Or, “If your God is so great then how come he didn’t save his followers?” It was obvious from the looks on their faces that Alma and Amulek were disheartened and hurting, but once they got a moment alone they mustered their strength and they did the most surprising thing. . .

JERUSHA: They attacked the guards?

GUARD: No. The entire time they were imprisoned they were honorable. No, what they did was pray. I’ve never heard a prayer like that one. Alma stood up and in a voice that pierced all of us within earshot called out, “How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord? O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance.” By the time Alma got to “deliverance” it seemed like the air was vibrating around them. There was just this power, you know, and, wham!, their ropes broke. Now I know the man who tied those ropes and they weren’t meant to come off.

JERUSHA: What are saying? What kind of power are you implying?

GUARD: Well, at the time I didn’t know exactly what kind. But it was an undeniable power—the air itself seemed to crack and shimmer—and the moment those ropes hit the ground they sent out shockwaves and the walls crumbled. Alma and Amulek were fine and I made it out with only a few injuries, but a lot of men were lost in the rubble. Maybe it was the shock or maybe people were starting to think Alma could wipe Ammonihah off the map or maybe they were thinking about what kind of power Alma’s God really has, but nobody protested when those two guys walked out of the city. To be honest, I wasn’t the only one who followed those two right out the gates. I’d seen enough and I was sick of wickedness parading as justice. I knew what they said was coming was true. I threw in my lot with them and never looked back.

JERUSHA: Thank you for your story. The result of the quake at the prison was complete destruction. As our witness said very few survived and nobody but Alma and Amulek walked away unscathed. People in Ammonihah were subdued for the time, perhaps even scared. But nobody imagined the terror that awaited them.

ANCHOR: Now we turn to our final correspondent to detail the end of Ammonihah. Gid, for many of the Ammonihah-ites that morning started out like any other. Correct?

GID: That’s exactly right. In fact, the period directly before the siege of Ammonihah was one marked by peace. It had been about a year since the destruction of the prison and the people in Ammonihah had put their own spin on those events, discounting Alma’s words saying it was the power of the devil. However, one clear morning, a group of Lamanites who had been attacking the Anti-Nephi-Lehies changed their minds and decided to attack the Nephites who they felt had caused all the trouble with the Anti-Nephi-Lehies in the first place. They snuck into the land of Ammonihah’s through the wilderness borders and the carnage was immediate. Before the Ammonihah-ites could even begin to raise an army the Lamanites were laying waste to them and their powerful city. The attack was swift and bloody. Spending less than a day in Ammonihah the Lamanite scourge moved on to other cities. A few days later when a scouting group from the city of Noah returned from Ammonihah their report was startling. Heaps of bodies mangled by wild animals were all that was found. It was clear that no one was left in Ammonihah. The scouting group covered the bodies in a layer of dirt but the destruction was so complete and the smell so bad our crew couldn’t even make it into the city itself to investigate. Interestingly, people in these parts no longer refer to Ammonihah by its name or even as a great city. Now they simply call it “Desolation.”

ANCHOR: An apt name for a city that suffered such an ignominious doom—one that will forever haunt Nephi civilization. But what of Alma and Amulek, these prophets who not only foretold the destruction but claimed that the very people destroyed brought it on themselves through their evil? Tonight we conclude our broadcast with a statement from them. We invited them for interview but they declined saying that “the work of establishing the Lord’s church” was keeping them too busy—which is understandable considering the number of converts they’ve found in cities all over the land of Nephi. People, both Nephite and Lamanite, are returning to the ways of their forefathers. Now, the letter:

ALMA: “[We would remind you of ] faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”

AMULEK: “[Our] brethren, [we] think that it is impossible that ye should be ignorant of the things which have been spoken concerning the coming of Christ, who is taught by us to be the Son of God; yea, [we] know that these things were taught unto you bountifully before your dissension from among us. [We exhort] you to prepare your minds; yea, and [we exhort] you unto faith and to patience . . . that ye may try the experiment of its goodness.”

ALMA: “[We] testify unto you of [ourselves] that these things are true. Behold, [we] say unto you, that [we] do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it. Yea, [we] would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation.”

ANCHOR: There you have the words of Alma and Amulek. And indeed, many who have heard their teachings say that a new spirit of peace is filling the land. So, was the destruction of Ammonihah the fulfillment of prophecy? Or was it just another example of savage Lamanite hostilities? Like so many other things in our history, the answer to that question seems to come down to individual belief. Alma and Amulek themselves proposed an experiment, a testing of belief. We encourage you, our viewers, to try this experiment and share your thoughts by logging on to our website at Thank you for sharing this journey with us. From all of us at the Nephite News Network in Zarahemla, good night.